Quite appropriately, palo santo translates to “sacred wood.” This South American cousin of frankincense and myrrh has been traditionally employed in folk medicine and ceremony for thousands of years, perhaps beginning with the Incas.
The scent of palo santo (Bursera graveolens) is unique. If you haven’t smelled it, imagine a combination of cedar, smoky maple syrup, sweet lemon iced tea, and a verdant forest as the day begins to dawn. Although I’ve never met an actual palo santo tree, I’m well acquainted with the wood because of its popularity in metaphysical and magical supply shops. It’s burned like incense, and its smoke is used to smudge (or energetically clear) places, objects, and people.
Aligning with the Divine
As his name implies, palo santo’s wood, incense, and oil are employed to align one with the realm of the sacred. Simply diffusing the oil, misting with water into which you’ve added the oil, burning the incense, or smudging with a palo santo stick can burn away the illusion of separation and dissolve everything that is not real, true, and from love. It does this in much the same way the rising sun burns away morning dew and bathes everything in blinding illumination. However, while palo santo is aligned with the sun, he is also aligned with the moon, so he possesses a gentleness and a balance that can help one balance out, open the heart, and find the Divine within.
As described above, palo santo possesses a clearing action that dissolves away all undesirable energies and attunes areas, people, animals, and objects to the frequency of divine power and love. In fact, many people who dislike the smell of white sage turn to palo santo as a more agreeable alternative.
Interestingly, palo santo oil is also antiviral and antiseptic. This may signify that the smoke also has disinfecting properties, as some studies on smudging have indicated.
Creating Sacred Space
The two uses described above—aligning with the Divine and clearing—place palo santo on the A-list of magical botanicals that create sacred space. Creating sacred space is an intention shared by all magical practitioners as they prepare for spells and rituals. But creating sacred space is also our intention when we dedicate any area to a divine purpose: this could be a yoga or ritual space, or even a home or a business we choose to regularly dwell in. For this purpose, simply diffuse the oil, mist with water containing the oil, or use a stick to smudge.
Palo santo is burned to create sacred space for healing, and the oil and wood aromatherapeutically support the immune system and relax the mind and emotions. Additionally, the essential oil can be combined in equal parts with a carrier oil and applied topically to disinfect and reduce inflammation.
Are you noticing a theme? As you might guess from the previous uses, palo santo is an excellent ally for meditation, as the scent clears the mind, soothes the spirit, and lifts one’s consciousness into the realm of the Divine. If you’re in South America and palo santo trees are in the neighborhood, lucky you! You can sit in quiet contemplation with a tree and soak in some mighty meditation mojo and super sacred sensations.
Planet: Sun and Moon